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Thrills lacking in Percy Jackson’s second film mission

sea of monsters’ ★★

Percy Logan Lerman

Annabeth Alexandra Daddario

Luke Jake Abel

Grover Brandon T. Jackson

Tyson Douglas Smith

Clarisse Leven Rambin

Dionysus Stanley Tucci

20th Century Fox presents a film directed by Thor Freudenthal and written by Rick Riordan and Marc Guggenheim. Running time: 106 minutes. Rated PG (for fantasy action violence, some scary images and mild language). Now showing at local theaters.

Updated: September 10, 2013 6:05AM

You might think it would be endlessly awesome being the offspring of an Olympian god, but it seems like kind of a drag, really, for young Percy Jackson.

The modern-day, half-mortal, teenage son of Poseidon (Logan Lerman, looking appropriately half-embarrassed) is always sneaking off for sad, heartfelt, one-sided conversations with the ocean, for starters. (“Good not talking to you again, Dad.”) Worse, the poor kid keeps getting suckered into insanely dangerous quests.

Worse yet, insanely dangerous barely translates to even mild excitement in this tepid second adaptation from the best-selling, mythology-raiding young-adult novel series.

In 2010’s “Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief,” Percy learned that his mom once upon a time had a little fling with the god of the sea. Soon thereafter he found himself mixed up in a mythological mess requiring him to rescue his mother from the land of the dead, retrieve Zeus’ stolen thunderbolt, prevent the gods from going to war and basically save the world.

That sort of thing might have served as a major confidence booster for some kids, but not Percy. He’s experiencing a serious sophomore slump in “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters,” where we find him gnawed with self-doubt at Camp Half-Blood, a sort of perpetual Outward Bound program established for Olympian love children — Greek gods and goddesses being infamous for being unable to keep their togas on.

It’s kind of understandable why he’s beginning to think of himself as a one-quest wonder. Dionysus (Stanley Tucci), who runs Camp Half-Blood, has been calling him Perry Johnson, he’s being bullied by shrew-in-training Clarisse (Leven Rambin as daughter of the god of war) and he’s not chosen for the A team when an attack on Camp Half-Blood calls for a quest to the Sea of Monsters (a.k.a. the Bermuda Triangle). There they must find the Golden Fleece and prevent the evil, or at least insufferably petulant, demigod Luke (Jake Abel as the resentful son of messenger god Hermes) from using it to topple the Olympians.

Faithful fans of the “Percy Jackson” novels were reportedly unhappy with liberties taken with “The Lightning Thief” (including bumping Percy up past puberty from the age of 12) and the same situation is presumably continued here. From the uninitiated perspective, though, it seems more likely that “Sea of Monsters” (directed by Thor “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” Freudenthal) will disappoint because of general cheesiness and a pronounced deficit of thrills.

There’s a certain amount of fun in the banter between Percy, his comic-relief satyr buddy Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) and the goddess of wisdom’s daughter Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), accompanying him here as they did in “Lightning Thief” after he’s guilted by a prophecy into believing he’s the only one who can save the day. And a certain amount of pathos develops in the presence of Percy’s recently discovered half-brother Tyson (Douglas Smith), a sweet-natured cyclops eager to prove he’s not as bad as the rest of his kin.

But aside from one fairly entertaining set piece involving a high-speed cross-country ride from three Gray Sisters, here driving a New York City cab with one eyeball between them, the big action set pieces fizzle. And that’s not good for a fantasy adventure movie, especially when the fantasy component is frequently undercut by sub-standard special effects.

It’s all well and good to have our heroes threatened by digestion and excretion in the stomach of the sea monster Charybdis, or hitching a ride on a hippocampus dispatched by Poseidon, if you can excite the audience’s imagination. But the effect is spoiled, somewhat, when the sea monster’s interior seems about as threatening as the backdrop for an antacid commercial. The giant, rainbow-colored seahorse looks like a refugee from a merry-go-round. And the mythic Golden Fleece, once found, has all the dazzle of a sheepskin bathmat.

Mythology shouldn’t be monkeyed with unless you can deliver the fantastical goods.

Bruce Ingram is a local free-lance writer.

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